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A former Florida cop has been sentenced to serve three years behind bars on federal charges connected to his admitted coercion of multiple women into performing sex acts while he was on duty and in uniform, federal prosecutors announced late this week.
Though the three-year sentence was described by the feds as the “statutory maximum sentence,” not everyone was happy.
As Law&Crime previously reported, Jesus Manuel Menocal Jr., 34, a former Hialeah Police Department sergeant, pleaded guilty in federal court in Miami to three federal civil rights offenses involving sexual conduct with multiple women. Because the crimes to which he admitted guilt are misdemeanors, he would not be forced to register as a sex offender, his attorney said outside court back in early March.
The DOJ framed the facts this way:
According to court documents, Menocal kissed a woman and caused her to touch his exposed penis; had a second woman, who was in psychiatric crisis, perform oral sex on him; and coerced a third woman, who was walking alone at night, into submitting to oral and vaginal sex. While not directly related to the offenses to which he pleaded guilty, Menocal also admitted to bringing a fourth female into a Hialeah Police Department building and ordering her to remove her shorts and underwear, causing her to expose her buttocks to him. Menocal admitted that he was on-duty and in uniform during all of these acts, abusing his official authority.
Menocal’s plea agreement says he agreed to surrender his Florida Department of Law Enforcement certification and to “never seek reinstatement” of that certification. He also agreed to never apply for law enforcement certifications anywhere in the United States and to never again seek “employment as a federal, state, municipal, or tribal law enforcement officer, correctional officer, or correctional probation officer.”
The defense asked for a commitment to “a combination of halfway house and home detention” — a request the judge declined.
“Incarcerating Jessie serves no end,” the defense wrote, “yet allowing him to serve a sentence but in a halfway house setting, will allow him to help his father in his time of need, remain an active and present father for young children who need him, and work to pay whatever restitution is ultimately ordered by this court.”
“The career Jessie cherished is now over,” the defense continued in a sentencing memo. “His challenge is to pick of the pieces and move forward to demonstrate to this court, the government, the community, and his family his character and to pay back society for his wrongs.”
The defense also filed more than 70 letters in support of the disgraced former officer.
Carlos Avila, identified in the court record as a fellow law enforcement officer who has long known the defendant and his family, wrote to the court to request “the lightest sentence possible” because, in part, the defendant had “dedicated his life to protecting and serving [his] community honorably” and had “lost his reputation, his career,” and “his dignity.”
Avila, whose letter had to be resubmitted to the court because it was originally sent on City of West Miami letterhead, noted that Menocal was related to a long line of police officers: his father and uncles were also cops.
Avila wrote that Menocal was “remorseful and embarrassed as a result of his actions.”
According to a government sentencing memorandum, federal prosecutors asked for the sentence they received: three years behind bars. That document lays harsh criticism upon the defendant:
The defendant swore an oath to serve the community of Hialeah as a police officer. This duty was especially sacred when it came to protecting the most vulnerable in his community. Yet instead of serving his community, the defendant tarnished his badge and abused his authority by sexually exploiting the very people he was supposed to protect. The defendant has pleaded guilty to three counts of depriving three different women of their constitutional rights by using his position and power to obtain or attempt to obtain sexual gratification from them. Though not a count of conviction, the defendant admitted to violating the rights of a fourth woman in the Stipulated Factual Basis.
Emotions ran high outside the courthouse after sentencing, according to coverage of the hearing by Miami ABC affiliate WPLG.
A man described by the TV station as a “rep” for the defendant refused to take questions but ranted for close to six minutes before an assembled bank of television cameras, WPLG reported. The rep “shamed the victims,” “brought up Antifa for some reason,” and suggested that the ex-cop only copped the plea to “avoid more legal fees,” according to WPLG’s coverage.
“Apologize to the victims!” yelled Gerry Betancourt, who WPLG identified as the brother of one of the targeted women. “He got caught because people reported him!”
Betancourt, whose sister died in what WPLG called a “suspicious” car accident shortly after levying accusations against Menocal, said the victims were “vulnerable,” “did not have a voice,” and were “easily discredited” on account of the power imbalance at play.
Maley Decosta identified herself to reporters outside the courthouse as the woman referenced by federal prosecutors as “Victim-1.”
“He betrayed the trust,” Decosta said. “He betrayed the City of Hialeah Police; he betrayed the victims.”
She said it took “bravery” to “stop all this.”
WPLG said state prosecutors said the women were “unreliable witnesses” and refused to file charges against Menocal.
Menocal was not required to submit to federal custody at sentencing. He has sixty days to turn himself in, WPLG reported.
“This is not justice to us,” said one person who was not named by WPLG but who appeared to be connected to the victims and their relatives.
Federal prosecutors put it differently in a press release.
“The Department of Justice will not tolerate police officers who abuse their authority to prey on those they are sworn to protect,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Civil Rights Division. “The Civil Rights Division will continue to vigorously prosecute these cases to secure justice for the victims of these reprehensible crimes and to ensure that perpetrators who use their unique power to take advantage of others are held accountable.”
“The police officer sentenced today violated not only his victims’ rights, but also the public’s trust,” said U.S. Attorney Juan Antonio Gonzalez for the Southern District of Florida. “As this prosecution shows, we will hold accountable those in our South Florida community who abuse their positions of power and engage in such disgraceful illegal conduct.”
“Jesus Menocal now faces the consequences for using his position to sexually abuse women,” said Deputy Special Agent in Charge John J. Bernardo of the FBI Miami Field Office. “Menocal was sentenced to the statutory maximum which is a testament to the courage of his victims to come forward and tell their stories as well as the dedication of FBI Miami’s Civil Rights squad.”
Read some of the court paperwork below:
WPLG’s coverage is also here:
[image via WPLG-TV screengrab]
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